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Hondurans fear legislative crisis will overwhelm new government

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Hondurans fear legislative crisis will overwhelm new government

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On the eve of their new president’s inauguration, Hondurans fear a legislative crisis could derail the government they had pinned so much hope on before it even began

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — On the eve of their new president’s inauguration, Hondurans feared a legislative crisis threatened to derail the government they had pinned so much hope on before it even began.

President-elect Xiomara Castro, Honduras’ first female leader, is due to be sworn in at noon on Thursday, ending a dozen years of governments that have overseen expanding poverty and emigration while being accused of corruption and links with drug traffickers.

Pressure has mounted to find a way out of a political stalemate that has resulted in two rival congressional leadership teams.

Seventy-two-year-old José Ricardo Garay traveled to the capital from his home in northwest Honduras to attend his first inauguration, saying he was eager to see President Juan Orlando Hernández step down.

“This man bothers me,” he said as he ate a bean-filled tortilla outside Congress on Wednesday. Garay was also unsettled by the divided Congress — the two leadership teams held concurrent but separate sessions on Tuesday — and echoed Castro that the split “was a betrayal.”

Several newly elected lawmakers from Castro’s Freedom and Refoundation Party, known as Libre, defected on Friday and elected their own leader to Congress – Jorge Cálix. They rejected Castro’s choice, Luis Redondo, a selection rooted in the political alliance that helped him win the November election.

Critics say none of the leadership teams have been chosen or installed legally and Crisis Group analyst Tiziano Breda said a quick political solution was urgently needed.

“Politically, you run the risk of provoking a legislative paralysis, where initiatives approved by Cálix are refused by the president or even not taken into account, while the Redondo team does not have the necessary votes in Congress or lacks legality,” he said.

Breda feared the crisis could spread to a third branch of the Honduran government if the dispute ends up in the Supreme Court, which is seen as sympathetic to Hernández’s incumbent National Party and therefore distrusted by Hondurans who backed Castro.

The risk is that continued uncertainty could deter much-needed international investment in Honduras, Breda said.

This international support will be critical to Castro’s ability to begin to turn around a country plagued by soaring unemployment and high rates of violence – two of the factors that have driven Honduras to flee the country in recent years.

“Socially, the resentment and exhaustion that drove the majority of Hondurans to vote for change in November would be fueled if they saw the political class continue to entangle power struggles and individual interests instead of s tackle the country’s emergencies,” Bréda said. “This could result in more social turbulence and increasing migration.”

Helen Euceda, a 39-year-old doctor who travels to work, said it was essential that the new government immediately focus its attention on “the health and education of the people”.

“With (Castro) in government, it’s an opportunity for women, who are able to take charge of the issues,” Euceda said. “It won’t be short term, but there is an opportunity to show capacity and gender inclusion.”

Hondurans fear legislative crisis will overwhelm new government

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